The Shape of Water is a fantasy drama film directed by Guillermo Del Toro and is a film that was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, having already won Best Director at the Golden Globes earlier in the year. As one would expect from such accolades and credentials, the film has received high marks from critics and audience members alike.
As of this writing, the film is a little shy of 70 million worldwide off of its 19.5 million dollar production budget, however, as Award season runs fullsteam ahead, I would not be surprised to see it have a re-invigored box office presence in proceeding weeks.
Guillermo Del Toro is a talented director. I feel very comfortable in that assessment. His smaller feel films like The Devil’s Backbone, Crimson Peak, and Pan’s Labyrinth were enjoyable. Meanwhile, his blockbuster type films like Blade 2, both Hellboy films, and Pacific Rim were solid as well. That said, while I am interested in more from Del Toro, I would not necessarily cite him as a great film director or cite any of those films as being favorites of mine.
Del Toro’s strongest attributes, in my opinion, are, without a doubt, his imagery and sense of style, whereas his weakest attribute is his storytelling and backing his visuals up with an enticing enough narrative to bring the best out of it.
The film The Shape of Water is about this mute custodian woman who works at a high security government laboratory in Baltimore, the film takes place in 1962, and it is because her place of employment she becomes acquainted with this captured humanoid-amphibian creature. It is basically said the government found it in a South American river and that it was revered as a God, and ultimately, a romantic relationship begins to form between the two of them.
I went into this film expecting shades of Beauty and the Beast, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and maybe even a little bit of Splice, more or less, I felt comfortable going in that I knew what to expect.
After having watched the film, I can comfortably say it is mostly devoid of any real surprises as far as storyline trajectory is concerned. The only thing I did not expect is that I did not expect it to be a straightforward romance, and I thought it was something that would be hinted at and implied, but that their relationship would be presented as nonsexual. However, that did not happen. And, by the way, everyone is really cool about this, as far as her friends are concerned, but that is beside the point.
The strong suit with The Shape of Water is, unsurprisingly, the visual flare and pizazz it carries itself with. It is realized and makes for an entertaining backdrop for the story to unfold. I would not call it Del Toro’s best, all things considered, but it is a foot squarely in the win column. When I say visual flare, I am, of course, referring to the special effects, the decoration, and the scenery, although, when I say pizazz, I am also talking about the music, which compliments it very well.
The issue I had with The Shape of Water, however, really goes back to what I said earlier about how Del Toro struggles with creating a captivating and truly unique narrative in his films, and I think that statement goes a long way in summarizing this film. The story line in The Shape of Water is not simply one that is familiar, but one that has been treaded a high amount, and there is not a lot of innovative plot threads to think about.
If you read the description for what I said of the film and then, added: “and also, there’s a conflict,” I feel as though you can practically assume everything that happens in this film and have very accurate results. Predictability is not necessarily a damning mistake to make, but the film simply doesn’t engage in its own predictability in a way that makes me enjoy the ride.
The primary focus in The Shape of Water is the dynamic between the Creature and the mute custodian, but their relationship is not as strongly established as it could have been, with most of their actual chemistry only being implied and not particularly displayed beyond a few shots that are, albeit, beautiful, not enough.
The acting is not bad for this film, with my favorite actor of the whole ordeal being Michael Shannon, who plays this douche antagonist, who is always trying to interfere with all the cross-species sexual escapades, and even if he might be a little of an archetype, I liked his portrayal. The others involved are enjoyable as well, but, once again, the real issue with The Shape of Water is that I am never engaged by it.
The Shape of Water is a film I watched and thought to myself, it is a standard, conventional film bolstered by its artistic approach, and that really is all I have for it. It is nice and it is safe, although a little gross, but it does not really strike me as something I will think about years or even months from now.